Women We Celebrate
Anne Martin, born in 1875, was a history professor, writer, and suffrage leader who made significant contributions to the advancement of women’s political participation both nationally and in her home state of Nevada. Martin attended the University of Nevada and Stanford University, and after graduating from her master’s program, founded and headed the History Department of the University of Nevada. She later became a key organizer and leader of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage and later, the National Woman’s Party.
Like many Congressional Union and National Woman’s Party leaders, Anne Martin received her early suffrage training in England through her involvement with the radical Pankhurst family and their organization, the Women’s Social and Political Union. She later returned to the United States and headed the Nevada Equal Franchise Society where she played a key role in winning state suffrage for Nevada in 1914. In an article published in The Suffragist (November 7, 1914), Martin described the challenges of winning suffrage in Nevada—a state with a highly scattered and transient voting population. Martin explained that campaigning and educating Nevada voters required extensive press work, including the dissemination of weekly suffrage bulletins to numerous newspapers. The work also required widespread canvassing and street meetings; suffrage workers travelled thousands of miles to reach voters face-to-face, even travelling on horseback at times. Martin’s Society recruited large numbers of dues-paying women members to support the effort, and partnered with the Congressional Union, which sent Mabel Vernon to help with organizing.
In December 1914, Martin journeyed to Washington, D.C. to meet with the President and to advocate for the passage of the federal suffrage amendment. She highlighted the laborious nature of state by state action, stating: ““The referendum campaigns are killing work, and the women of America are asking for the passage of this Federal amendment in order to end the long struggle” (The Suffragist, December 12, 1914). As Martin became involved in the work of the Congressional Union, she brought a valuable perspective on the strategic connections between state and national suffrage work, and a strong conviction on the importance of federal action.
Martin also contributed her experience and influence as a voting woman during the Congressional Union’s 1915 and 1916 campaigns to harness the women voters of the west. Martin was a prominent attendee and one of the vice-chairmen at the Women Voters Convention at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in September 1915. She later welcomed the Women Voters envoys who travelled from the San Francisco Convention to Washington, D.C. to deliver resolutions to Congress and the President, greeting them upon their arrival at the Capitol and making introductions when the envoys were received by President Wilson.
In 1916, Martin was instrumental in the campaign to rally women voters to form the National Woman’s Party, and spoke at the April 1916 National Advisory Council meeting—the gathering that planned the Suffrage Special trip to the west and began preparations for the Woman’s Party Convention. At the meeting, Martin said: “It is only when we convince the party in power that it will lose support if it does not pass the amendment that it will put it through” (The Suffragist, April 15, 1916).
In June 1916, at the Chicago Woman’s Party Convention, the Party itself was launched and Martin was elected the first chairman. Throughout the Convention, Martin served as a speaker, both to the women assembled and to members of the Progressive and Republican parties. In the latter case, she was advocating for their support of the suffrage amendment, which both parties would give.
As chairman, during the Colorado Springs Convention of August 1916, Martin spoke on several occasions and served as overseer to the entire event. The main purpose of the Convention was to decide on party policy for the upcoming election season. The approved proposal was to oppose the Democrats on every national election, to congratulate the Progressive, Prohibition, and Socialist parties for their endorsement of suffrage, and to commend Hughes on his support of women’s suffrage as the Republican presidential nominee.
During the Grand Picket of March 4, 1917, Martin and others led a delegation of almost one thousand women on a march to the White House during driving wind and rain. During the Bastille Day Picket of July 14, 1917, Martin was one of sixteen pickets arrested for “unlawful assembly” and sentenced to 60 days in the Occoquan Workhouse. On July 19, 1917, the group was pardoned by the President.
Martin was dedicated to increasing women’s direct political participation, and in 1918 and 1920, ran for election to the U.S. Senate for the state of Nevada. Though she was unsuccessful on both occasions her campaigns represented a historic step forward for women’s political participation.
In addition to being the first chairman of the National Woman’s Party, Martin’s suffrage career included numerous other leadership roles, including chairman of the Nevada Congressional Union (CU), Legislative Chairman of CU and NWP, and member of the CU Executive Committee. When the CU and NWP merged in 1917, Martin was elected vice-chairman of the Party.
After the passage of the suffrage amendment, Martin became involved in the American Civil Liberties Union and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She also supported the National Woman’s Party’s international work for women’s rights; on July 3, 1926, she was a member of the National Woman’s Party’s division in a London Equal Franchise demonstration of 2,000 women. Martin passed away in 1951 leaving a lasting legacy of activism and engagement around civic and political issues.